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Using Kickstarter to launch a business.

by Colum Byron March 22, 2021 3 min read

Using Kickstarter to launch a business.

I give Kickstarter full credit for giving me the confidence to go full time with my business. But would I do it again knowing what I do now? 

No. 

It was a learning experience for sure, and a hard, stressful learning experience. 

I didn't have some big plan for the Kickstarter to begin with, I'd gotten to a capable and profitable point with making the knives. It's a pretty unique concept, one I hadn't seen online, and well suited to crowd sourcing model. So I thought, why not?

First thing I learnt is that Kickstarter doesn't promote your project. If you get popular enough to a point that Kickstarter think you'll make them money, they'll push it up the listing, but until then, nada. So you need to bring the eyeballs to the platform yourself. 

Next is that you'll get a thousand emails offering you the world, just pay X, and they'll promote you on their huge FB page, run ads, and a world of other things. Ignore them. 

But you do need to have a strategy to bring eyeballs to the page, and my very limited facebook ads knowledge brought enough curosity to it. Given what I know about the ads now, I could have done a thousand times better, but that's experience. 

And after all that, it actually went well.

I raised $50k, which looks like a bit under a years worth of wages, and enough for my wife to give me the nod to quit my job and do it full time. 

But the thing I didn't realise was the fees. I'd set the prices as the same I'd previously had on my website, I didn't want to charge more because it felt like ripping people off. But everybody on Kickstarter take a handout, they have their % of total profit they take, then Amazon take their chunk for *payment fees*, the facebook ads were piling up, and I was now over a certain threshold for taxes, so they took a chunk, import duties, new equipment, and wham. Not much left, barely enough to live off. 

Given it took me 2 very stressful months longer than I thought to complete the knives, months were I couldn't try and get in any extra money because I was so under the pump getting it done, things were very tight. 

But then, all done, it was time to move on after the Kickstarter.

I thought once I get the Kickstarter done, it'll give me a lot of organic traffic, people would talk to their friends, people would visit my website more to see how I'm progressing after the project, and it'd give me a good head start. 

Nope. 

Not even slightly.

I'd burnt out from working 3 months straight without a break (no weekends, days off, just working non-stop and with a barely sleeping baby at the same time). And the business was slow. I didn't mind so much for the first month, I honestly needed a break. Then the second comes along, and the magical organic traffic never arrived. 

I needed to start my business from scratch again. 

I needed to start to build up a Facebook following, instagram following, and get eyeballs onto my site. It was a slow process, but it's paying off. Advertising isn't eating up all my profits anymore, just most of them, and I'm into a steady routine, not going to be a millionaire anytime soon, but am earning a living. 

What would I do differently?

I initially thought that my internal costs would come down when I'm buying more materials in bulk, and they did, but not enough. So first thing I'd charge more. I'd work out the kickstarter fees, payment fees, gst, etc, add 10% on top of that. I probably wouldn't have been as popular with a higher price. I thought it would be an introductory price, and that would be a good way of getting people into my business, but the flow on effects were minimal. 

I'd set more caps on what I could physically make, or a longer making process. I simply didn't have enough time to make the workload in what I had, but I'd never made that many before, so I literally had no idea.

And I'd go in with a far grander social media plan than I had.

But hindsight is a glorious thing, and I wouldn't give up what I have now.

 

 


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